What is Depression

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 19 million Americans are living with depression right now.  Depression is a feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness. Depression must be taken seriously. Depression can be a situational passing mood or it can be a lifelong battle. It affects your behavior, thoughts, and relationships. Depression can feel overwhelming and overpowering. Major depression is difficult to live with in Los Angeles. While Los Angeles has beautiful weather and scenery, its hectic pace, economic extremes, and high expectations sometimes adds to the feeling of despair and sadness


Symptoms of Depression

If you are depressed, you may feel sad, unhappy, anxious, angry, troubled, empty, distracted, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, frustrated or agitated.  You may cry for no reason and have regular thoughts about death, dying or suicide. Many people with depression also have physical symptoms such as aches and pains, loss of appetite or overeating, insomnia or excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, and digestive problems.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away (Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255).


Causes of Depression

There are many different causes of depression and it is often difficult to figure out which causes triggered a depression.

One of the causes of depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Three important neurotransmitters in the brain are norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters must be in a state of balance. If the chemicals are imbalanced it is believed that depression can set in.  These chemical imbalances could be passed on genetically, but you can also have family members that have suffered from depression without developing depression yourself.

Depression can be triggered by life events such as grief and loss, the breakup of a relationship, adjusting to a life change like having a baby, or moving to a new city or country. Early childhood trauma or neglect can also precipitate the development of depression.

Other risk factors for depression include:

  • low self-esteem
  • anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • chronic diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or cancer
  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • certain prescription medications
  • family history of depression


Treatments for Depression

I treat depression through talk therapy. Depression is trying to tell you something and we want to hear what it has to say.  Through communication, feelings and negative beliefs that are trapped inside you can be released.  This conversation is different than the conversations that you might have with friends and family because the focus is entirely on you, without any need for concern about the therapist’s feelings.  The freedom of this therapeutic conversation allows you to follow your own internal compass that’s guiding you to talk about what it is you need to talk about.  As a result, feelings will rise to the surface, providing relief as well as insight about your depression, letting you work through the pain of the past and the concerns of the future.  Ultimately, the goal is to have a more accepting and fluid relationship with your emotions and a positive attitude towards yourself.

Depression can be treated in individual therapy and group therapy or a combination of both.  I provide both individual and group therapy in my Encino and Calabasas offices.

Some other alternative therapies, while unproven, are considered safe and have been helpful in reducing the symptoms of depression. You might try relaxation techniques, meditation, hypnosis, massage, or acupuncture.


Medication for Depression

Depression can also be partially treated with anti-depressant medication, but that is not something that I can prescribe. You would have to see a medical doctor, psychiatrist, or mental health nurse practitioner in order to receive medication management. We can work together to decide whether you should seek that additional form of treatment.


Some Things You Can Do to Alleviate Depression

Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet won’t cure depression, but an unhealthy diet, heavy in fats, sugars and little nutritional value will make your body feel heavy, bloated and fatigued.  Poor physical health can greatly impact your mental health.  In comparison, a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and lean meats will give you energy and physically well-being that can help your fight against depression.

Get regular exercise

Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.  Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.Regular exercise has been proven to:


Go Outdoors

Although the science hasn’t proven it yet, many researchers are convinced that getting out into the sun and surrounding yourself in nature can boost your mood and help ease depression.  In the San Fernando Valley we have no shortage of sun, but you can still miss out on the vitamin D and good feeling that the sun provides if you stay indoors all the time.  Luckily for those of us living in California, nature is never too far away.  Getting out into nature can provide a refreshing change from Los Angeles’s numerous buildings and busy freeways.  Going for a hike combines the benefits of exercise, mindfulness, breathing fresh air as well as setting and achieving an attainable goal.

Get enough sleep…but not too much

Depression can interfere with your sleep. Some people with depression sleep too much. Others have insomnia — they can’t fall asleep at night or they wake up too early in the morning.

Not getting enough sleep can have a huge impact on your mood. So you need to get into some good sleep habits. Stay on a regular schedule: go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Don’t nap. Physical activity during the day may help you sleep, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime. That is stimulating. Before getting into bed, unwind with a good book or soothing music. However, avoid watching TV or staring at a bright computer screen in bed. That will help you maintain good sleep habits.

Do things you enjoy

Due to the fact that one of the symptoms of depression is not enjoying the things you used to enjoy, it may be difficult to do just that.  You may need to push yourself a little to continue to do the things you used to enjoy or try new things that you think you might enjoy.  Go out to a movie.  Meet friends for dinner.  Maybe try to express yourself creatively.  In Woodland Hills you can try spinning a pot on a potter’s wheel at Bitter Root Pottery or you can go to a Paint Night in Encino.

Avoid alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and many illicit drugs can contribute to depression and make it worse. In fact, substance abuse often goes hand in hand with depression. Alcohol and drugs may also affect how well antidepressants work. If you think you have a substance abuse problem, you need to get help now. Addiction or abuse can prevent you from fully recovering from your depression.



Prolonged or chronic depression can have a devastating impact on your emotional and physical health. Untreated, it may even put your life at risk. Depression can lead to:

  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • headaches and other chronic aches and pains
  • phobias, panic disorders, anxiety attacks
  • trouble with school or work
  • family and relationship problems
  • social isolation
  • overweight or obesity due to eating disorders, raising the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • self-mutilation
  • attempted suicide or suicide
Treatment Works!

Clinical depression is treatable. The most common methods are antidepressant medication and psychological counseling. Most of the time, a combination of both is recommended. It’s important to note that antidepressant medications may take several months to work. In many cases, a long-term approach is best.

The National Mental Health Association says that more than 80% of people who get treatment say it helps.


Let’s Talk

Schedule a free 15 minute consultation by calling +1 (818) 245-5298
or e-mailing me at



Rena Pollak, LMFT, CGP  | 15720 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 508, Encino, CA 91436 | 818-245-5298